Literature Study GuidesIn Cold BloodPersons Unknown Part 2 Summary

In Cold Blood | Study Guide

Truman Capote

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Course Hero. "In Cold Blood Study Guide." November 28, 2016. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/In-Cold-Blood/.

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Course Hero, "In Cold Blood Study Guide," November 28, 2016, accessed November 12, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/In-Cold-Blood/.

In Cold Blood | Persons Unknown (Part 2) | Summary

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Summary

Susan Kidwell describes being allowed to view the Clutters in their caskets at the funeral home before the caskets are closed. Each of the victims' heads is wrapped entirely in cotton and looks twice the size of a blown-up balloon. Susan is also haunted by the fact that Nancy—who'd been like a sister—wears the red velvet dress she designed and made herself. Theories and clues rock the town, and Alvin Dewey gets little sleep, answering 3 a.m. phone calls from journalists, theorists, or local citizens hoping to be helpful, but usually adding little to the investigation.

Meanwhile, Perry Smith reads about the Clutter funeral, which a thousand people attend, and reflects on how Dick Hickock took him around Kansas City, writing bad checks for items they could pawn, such as an engagement ring and wedding band for Perry, whom Dick had pretended was getting married. The closest Perry has ever come to marriage was with Cookie, the nurse who cared for him after his motorcycle accident; once healed, he bid her good-bye and moved on. Dick begins to worry his parents will end up covering the bad checks he passed when they bounce. Perry reassures Dick they can make good money once they reach Mexico or even Costa Rica by searching for buried bullion. But the look on Dick's face makes Perry wonder if Dick has just been pretending to believe in his schemes.

Analysis

In a small town, everyone has a theory for why bad things happen and who's to blame. Holcomb, Kansas, is no different. No one's life can return to normal because normal now includes the possibility that people like the Clutters can be murdered. The theme of fear is rampant in this part of the novel. Everyone who calls Alvin Dewey, hoping their information will help break the case, also wants to stop feeling unsafe in their own homes and in their community. But none of these "leads" pan out. Perry Smith begins to realize Dick Hickock—though a smooth-talker and someone who can get them a lot of money quickly—can't do it in any reliable or legal way. Perry begins to think Dick only pretends to believe in him. This is "acutely painful" for Perry, who has been hurt and betrayed his entire life. Dick victimizes not only the Clutters but Perry, too, by getting him to commit the murders.

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